Indiana, 1817. The entire nation, only 40 years old and a few years removed from a second war of independence, is raw. Men, women, and children alike must battle nature and disease to survive in remote log cabins. This is young Abraham Lincoln's world. Spanning three years of the future president's childhood, The Better Angels explores his family, the hardships that shaped him, the tragedy that marked him forever, and the two women who guided him to immortality.Written by
I sank deep into this film and stepped back in time.
This is one of the most extraordinary films I have ever seen. I've been pondering the experience for a couple of days. I really don't know how to express what I thought and felt while watching it. I fear that whatever I say will sound plastic, and it was not plastic at all. It was real. It fell just short of being living flesh.
To start, I felt like I was really there with young Lincoln and his family. It was like visiting with them. The feeling became deeper as the film progressed.
Black and white was the perfect choice for this film. The cinematography was in a class by itself. Orson Wells did not do any better when he filmed Citizen Kane.
Many of the camera angles were new to me; and yet they were as comfortable as old shoes. The sound was just as extraordinary. The wind in the trees, the birds chirping in the fields all combined with the skilled use of the camera and drew me in.
I've seen, as far as I know, every film ever made about Lincoln. He has been one of my heroes since I was a child. But, I've never seen one that covered his early childhood in such depth. Not necessarily depth of historical detail, but depth of experience; what he lived, thought and felt as a boy.
I was surprised and pleased to see something of his early school years. And yes, they prayed in school and the teacher taught from the Bible. The one room schoolhouse was, to the best of my knowledge, accurately portrayed.
If you question the reality of Christian teaching in early American schools, I suggest you Google up a copy of the first editions of McGuffey's Readers. You'll find them to be full of Christianity. That's the first editions; 1836 - 37. Not the later editions when the "gutting" of Christian teaching and principals was already having it's effect. More's the pity.
The two women in young Lincoln's life were of course his two mothers.
To watch Lincoln's mother touch and stroke his face and tousled hair was perhaps the most heart touching portrayal of a mother's love I have ever seen in film. Words were not needed; the love in her eyes and the touch of her hand said it all. No wonder Lincoln gave her so much praise.
Following his mother's death, his step-mother eventually became just as close to him. She too, was an extraordinary woman.
I disagree with the short shrift many film critics have given to Lincoln's father. He played as large a part in shaping Lincoln's character as did his two mothers. Lincoln Sr. is well represented here; and deservedly so.
When I was a boy there was a time I would have given anything to hear my father say to me what Abe's father says to him toward the end of the film. Of course I won't give it away, but I'll tell you it's worth waiting for.
I don't know if anyone connected with the film will ever read this, but if they do, I want to express my thanks and let you know I'm grateful for for work and care you put into "The Better Angels." I can honestly say that I think I'm a bit better for having seen it.
If you have not yet see this work of love, please do. I think you'll consider it to be time very well spent.
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